Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to effect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
MORNING MESSAGE: Wisconsin Is The Fight For Our Future
OurFuture.org’s Robert Borosage: “It isn’t surprising that, as unions have lost ground since 1980, inequality has grown to Gilded Age extremes. Nor that the advanced countries with stronger unions – like Germany and Sweden – have fared far better in sustaining widely shared prosperity while navigating the currents of globalization. Wisconsin is the first fierce battle in what will be a brutal and extended struggle. Will America come out of the economic collapse with policies that revive a broad middle class and widely shared prosperity? Or will the power of wealth and Wall Street succeed in continuing the squeeze on working and middle class families? Now across the country, people will have to decide, in words of the old union song, ‘Which side are you on?’”
Labor Is Winning
Labor is winning public opinion battle, finds TNR’s Jonathan Chait: “One poll, by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner but using straightforward questions, shows the majority of Wisconsin voters oppose Scott Walker’s anti-union moves. Another national poll from Gallup shows a national majority of voters would oppose a change like the one Walker is proposing … Among opinion elites, Walker’s proposal is being seen as transparently partisan and one-sided … Other conservative Republicans, like Mitch Daniels, Tommy Thompson, and Rick Scott are all, to varying degrees, backing away from walker’s position.”
Fight for worker rights spreads to Indiana and Ohio. McClatchy: “In Indiana, Democrats in the state Assembly vanished, depriving that body of the quorum needed to … limit government unions’ powers. And in Ohio, an estimated 5,500 protesters stood elbow to elbow in and outside the Capitol chanting ‘Kill the bill!’ as a legislative committee took up a proposal that would similarly neuter government unions … [Unions] got a boost Tuesday from a Gallup poll that found that 61 percent of Americans disapprove of stripping public workers of their ability to collectively bargain.”
OurFuture.org’s Robert Borosage joins MSNBC panel on how the Wisconsin protests can spread.
Gov. Walker takes to the airwaves to threaten mass layoffs. TPMDC quotes: “Failure to act on this budget repair bill means at least 1,500 state workers will be laid off before the end of June. If there’s no agreement by July 1, another 5-6,000 state workers as well as 5-6,000 local government employees would also be laid off.”
Wisconsin GOP state senators may not be unified. The Progressive: “‘There are six to seven Republican senators that hate this bill, really hate this bill,’ said [State Sen. Bob] Jauch on WOJB radio this morning. Republicans outnumber Democrats 19-14 in the state senate, so if three vote against it, the bill would die. Jauch says he’s been in touch with his Republican counterparts and they are ‘trying to come up with an alternative.’”
“Wisconsin is only part of the GOP war against unions” writes W. Post’s Harold Meyerson: “…the truly breathtaking measure was an amendment by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to defund the NLRB – closing it down altogether … The measure failed … but three-quarters of House Republicans … voted yes … In other words, the House leadership supported abolishing the right of American workers – in the private sector no less than the public sector – to bargain collectively.
Some GOP governors hesitate from embracing entirety of anti-worker agenda. ABC: “In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels called on Republicans state legislators to stand down on their push for a so-called right-to-work bill … in Florida newly-elected GOP Gov. Rick Scott said that Gov. Walker was right to try to curtail public employee benefits, but differed on the question of collective bargaining … in Pennsylvania, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, said earlier this week that while the governor would be willing to sign a right-to-work bill ‘that’s not a top priority of his right now.’ …”
Time adds: “Newly elected [Michigan] Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s budget calls for pensions to be taxed and he backs empowering emergency [school] financial managers … to cut union contracts. But when asked if there were any parallels to Wisconsin, Snyder insisted he remains committed to bargaining with labor rather than forcing his position.”
“Asked Twice, Gov. Daniels Can’t Explain How Eliminating Collective Bargaining Reduces Deficits” notes Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo: “Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) already stripped public employees of their right to collectively bargain in 2005. But even having personally implemented such a policy, Daniels can’t explain how it would help Wisconsin get its budget into balance.”
This has nothing to do with the budget, notes W. Post’s Katrina vanden Heuvel: “[Gov. Walker] signed off on tax cuts for businesses and then demanded harsh concessions from public employees, forcing them to pay more for pensions and health care … curtailing their right to bargain collectively, limiting any pay raise to the increase in the cost of living, and requiring an annual vote of members to continue the union. These measures aren’t about the budget crisis; they are about eliminating the unions. And to make the power grab blatant, Walker exempted those unions – police and firefighters – that supported him in the last election.”
What else is Walker trying to ram through? Medicaid cuts. TNR’s Jonathan Cohn: “It appears that Walker also wants to weaken the state’s Medicaid program, known as Badgercare. And his proposed method for accomplishing this is eerily similar to his proposed method for emasculating the public employee unions … Walker proposes to change the way the state government operates it, in a way that would allow him to change the program with virtually no legislative oversight.”
OH Gov. also doling out goodies to corporations while blaming unions for budget shortfall. Wonk Room’s Garofalo: “… Kasich, shortly after bemoaning his state’s budget situation, insisted that he will implement a slew of budget-busting tax cuts that he’s proposed. These cuts will double the state’s deficit — by eliminating the state’s estate tax and income tax — while likely not leading to any noticeable job growth. Kasich has even proposed privatizing some of the state’s assets in order to finance new tax cuts for corporations and the rich…”
Unions aren’t the problem, it’s lack of unions. LAT’s Tim Rutten: “…even though the unionization of public employees has masked organized labor’s long decline, 4 out of 10 public employees in America already are legally prohibited from collective bargaining. Anti-labor legislation has been instrumental in the decline of private-sector unions since passage of the Taft-Hartley Act following World War II. Many economists would point to that long decline as a major cause of the continuing erosion of middle-class wages and salaries and the insecurity engendered by employers’ abandonment of conventional pensions and their now-routine recourse to layoffs as a way to shore up balance sheets.”
Teachers are not overpaid, finds Econospeak’s Barkley Rosser: “…, out of 33 OECD countries, the US is #26 in pay per GDP for primary school teachers with 15 years of experience … there is no reason to believe that publicly paid teachers are somehow ripping off their fellow citizens.”
Indiana Dep. AG urges “use live ammunition” on WI protesters reports Mother Jones.
Closer To Shutdown
Shutdown threat heightened as parties clash over stopgap measure to keep doors open. The Hill: “…the two sides disagree on what should be in the short-term appropriation measure. Republicans want it to last as little as two weeks and contain immediate cuts. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called Tuesday for a 30-day bill with no cuts at all … A stopgap would let the parties haggle over the seven-month spending bill passed by the House on Saturday that cuts $61 billion from spending up through Sept. 30 … Democrats, Reid said, are willing to discuss cuts from current spending levels in the long-term CR … though he added that GOP riders to Saturday’s bill are completely unacceptable and show Republicans are not serious about seeking compromise.”
“We are willing to go deeper, we are willing to negotiate,” Sen. Chuck Schumer tells NYT.
The top things to hate about the GOP spending cut bill, from The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer: “Defunding the Affordable Care Act … Bailing out for-profit colleges … Targeting Planned Parenthood … The Dirty Air Act…”
What happens if there’s a shutdown? Slate’s Annie Lowrey: “Certain necessary activities would continue—anything related to defense, inpatient or emergency medical care, air traffic control, securing prisoners, or disaster assistance, for instance. But legally, federal agencies would have to wind down nonessential business. That means hundreds of thousands of employees would go on furloughs, from Treasury to Health and Human Services to the Department of Education, to be paid whenever a continuing resolution passed. Thousands more contractors would just lose their gigs. Parks would shut down. Offices would clear out. Phones would go unanswered.”
WH preparing for shutdown. The Hill: “Although the administration is tight-lipped about what exactly might happen during a shutdown, the last series of government shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, provides clues as to what to expect. When the Clinton-GOP standoff led to shutdowns, the public felt the impact in a variety of ways. All 368 national parks, museums and monuments were closed, and roughly 200,000 passport applications went untouched, according to a September 2010 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. Veterans’ benefit checks were delayed and new Social Security claims were not registered.”
Failure to lift debt limit will only raise borrowing costs. HuffPost: “‘Any delay in raising the debt limit that affects Treasury’s regular and predictable schedule of auctions can create uncertainty in the Treasury market,’ the [GAO] says. Various actions Treasury would take to manage the amount of debt as the limit approached could also ‘compromise the certainty of supply that Treasury relies on to achieve the lowest borrowing cost over time,’ the report says. ‘This uncertainty can, in turn, raise the cost of financing the federal debt.’”
Health Reform Constitutional, Again
Third federal judge upholds health reform law. ABC: “The ruling brings the judicial score card to 3-2. Three federal judges — all nominated by Democratic presidents — have upheld the law, while two judges — nominated by Republican presidents — struck down its core provision … ‘There is nothing extraordinary about Congress’ use of its Commerce Clause power,’ [Judge Gladys Kessler] wrote, ‘to rein in the price of health insurance policies.’”
13 states received federal grants to implement health reform law. HuffPost: “The states that requested (and were granted money) include Florida ($4.2 million), whose governor, Rick Scott, has been an outspoken critique of the president’s health care package; Mississippi ($1.3 million), whose governor, Haley Barbour, is a potential 2012 candidate; and Minnesota ($13.4 million), whose former governor, potential presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, has challenged health care’s constitutionality.”
Stimulus Working. More Please.
America is doing better than Germany and Britain, because our stimulus was bigger, finds NYT’s David Leonhardt: “With its modest stimulus winding down, Germany’s growth slowed sharply late last year, and its economic output still has not recovered to its prerecession peak. Output in the United States — where the stimulus program has been bigger and longer lasting — has recovered … and Germany’s turn to austerity has not been radical. Britain’s has [and] is now in worse shape…”
New study shows stimulus working even better than predicted. Dean Baker: “…this new study directly measures the impact of stimulus spending on employment across states, comparing the number of jobs created to the amount of spending [and] states that got more stimulus money had more jobs … it suggests that more stimulus would provide a further boost to the economy and reduction in unemployment. This means that the only reason that we are sitting here with 25 million people unemployed and underemployed is that the politicians in Washington are too intimidated by the Wall Street deficit hawks.”
President pushes public investment and business incentives in Cleveland. Plain Dealer: “…small business executives were encouraged to tell the president and Cabinet members traveling with him what their companies needed to grow … He repeatedly tried to put himself on the side of small businesses, noting his administration has offered 17 tax cuts to small businesses and that his administration came to listen … Phillip Davis … urged Obama to change tax policy to allow people to invest in small business without having to pay capital gains. ‘That is such a good idea,’ a smiling Obama responded, ‘that we implemented it last year.’”
Deficit cutters fail to claim moral high ground, notes New Deal 2.0′s L. Randall Wray: “…the problem is that if democracy ever had its way in America, the government would be substantially BIGGER, not smaller, and MORE generous, not less. Americans decisively reject modern Hooverism, in spite of the anti-government campaign run out of Washington over the past thirty years. So what can the Moral Minority do? Deceive. Obfuscate. Scapegoat.”
White House separating Social Security from deficit reduction. HuffPost: “… Jason Furman, deputy director of the President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, insisted that talk of Social Security reform ‘is not one you care about’ if ‘you are worried about our long-run fiscal future.’ ‘The reason you care about it is because you want to strengthen Social Security,’ Furman added … In an op-ed in USA Today, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew wrote that ‘Social Security does not cause our deficits’ and that the program’s ‘benefits are entirely self-financing.’”
No quick resolution on corporate tax reform expected. WSJ: “…the [Senate Finance] committee will spend ‘the next year fully examining our tax code.’ That timetable is widely viewed as necessary to prepare the ground for what’s likely to be a difficult and sometimes painful process for businesses as well as individuals. But it also reflects the lack of consensus on how to proceed, and the dangers for business leaders and politicians alike in moving too hastily.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Faces New Challenge
Climate activist Bill McKibben launches anti-U.S. Chamber of Commerce campaign in TomDispatch: “…volunteers from the climate change organization I helped to found, 350.org, will be fanning out to canvass local businesses … that belong to local chambers of commerce … asking for signatures on a statement announcing that ‘the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me,’ … when it comes to global warming, energy, and the environment.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s smear campaign against critics further exposed in Politico: “…documents and e-mails seem to show that over the past few months, the Chamber’s law firm, Hunton & Williams, was working with a task force of three cyberintelligence firms that called itself Team Themis on a multimillion-dollar plan to discredit critics of the Big Business group. Chamber officials have disavowed all knowledge of the Themis plan…”
Credit Card Crackdown
Credit card reforms beginning to take effect. W. Post: “…issuers have reduced penalty fees and stopped raising interest rates on existing balances … But [government] studies also outlined new tactics used to skirt the law, prompting Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, who is tasked with setting up the new consumer protection agency, to call for a new approach to regulating the industry.”
Politico suggests President can’t get bank tax passed: “…bankers view the tax proposal as punitive and not in keeping with the administration’s efforts to restore good relations with Wall Street and, more broadly, all of corporate America. They also said the administration knew the proposal would be rejected but needed all the revenue sources it could find to make its overall deficit projections appear less dire … in an interview with POLITICO, [GOP Rep. Aaron] Schock said the fee would not even be considered.”
New EPA Rules Today Could Spark Fight
EPA to make major air pollution decision today. The Hill: “The regulations, which would reduce toxic air emissions from industrial boilers, are arcane. But they underscore the political sensitivities surrounding every regulation EPA issues … Republicans and industry groups [have] railed against draft regulations offered by the agency last year, arguing the proposal was unrealistic and would result in job losses …”
Permitting for renewable energy projects risks conflict with open space advocates. Politico: “…as renewable energy developers eye the vast federal estate for their projects, the potential for collision with the greens is immense … Despite the potential conflict, Chase Huntley — a clean energy policy adviser for The Wilderness Society — believes that environmentalists, the renewable energy industry and the federal government can do better than they have with fossil fuels. The trick, he says, is to create a permitting process that deals with environmental conflicts ahead of time.”